Dispute Resolution

Serbia: Investment Arbitration – Is Your Investment in Serbia Protected?

The past decade has been marked with an explosion of investment treaty arbitrations. Foreign investors are increasingly aware of the powerful tool contained in bilateral investment treaties (BIT).

Introduction

Under BITs, for­eign investors can seek inter­na­tion­al pro­tec­tion against the state host­ing their invest­ment if the host state is tak­ing cer­tain actions adverse­ly affect­ing the invest­ment. Such pro­tec­tion pre­sumes the right of the investor to bring a claim direct­ly against the host state in a forum oth­er than the host state’s courts.

The Inter­na­tion­al Cen­tre for Set­tle­ment of Invest­ment Dis­putes (ICSID) has become the most com­mon forum for invest­ment dis­putes. Its insti­tu­tion­al link to the World Bank has fur­ther con­tributed to the grow­ing impor­tance of invest­ment treaty pro­tec­tion.

Final­ly, such ris­ing sig­nif­i­cance of invest­ment treaty safe­guards has result­ed in the avail­abil­i­ty of invest­ment treaty claims in a juris­dic­tion becom­ing an impor­tant fac­tor when plan­ning M&A trans­ac­tions. Thus, much like a favourable tax regime, the trans­ac­tions are them­selves struc­tured to opti­mise invest­ment treaty pro­tec­tion.

Treaty safeguards in Serbia

Against this back­ground, we will dis­cuss the fol­low­ing ques­tions: What invest­ment treaty safe­guards may for­eign investors expect when invest­ing in Ser­bia? Who is pro­tect­ed? What types of invest­ment are cov­ered? Why should for­eign investors con­sid­er ICSID invest­ment arbi­tra­tion?

Ser­bia has rat­i­fied the ICSID Con­ven­tion, which is one of the pre­con­di­tions for an invest­ment dis­pute against a state to be con­duct­ed before ICSID. An addi­tion­al pre­req­ui­site is the clear and uncon­di­tion­al con­sent of the host state to this dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism for spe­cif­ic invest­ment dis­putes and vis-à-vis cer­tain for­eign investors. Such con­sent of the host state is usu­al­ly pro­vid­ed in BITs.

Ser­bia has signed a rel­a­tive­ly wide range of bilat­er­al invest­ment treaties. Around 50 treaties of this type are cur­rent­ly applic­a­ble in Ser­bia. Ser­bia has invest­ment treaty rela­tions with all major coun­tries that are the prin­ci­pal source of for­eign invest­ment in Ser­bia, such as Italy, Aus­tria, Bel­gium, Greece, Ger­many, Rus­sia, and more. BITs signed by Ser­bia usu­al­ly con­tain such con­sent to ICSID arbi­tra­tion.

Thus, for­eign investors invest­ing in Ser­bia can count on ICSID arbi­tra­tion as the pro­tec­tion mech­a­nism for their invest­ments if, in addi­tion to the exis­tence of an applic­a­ble BIT, two oth­er juris­dic­tion­al con­di­tions are met: (i) the invest­ing enti­ty is a “for­eign investor” with­in the mean­ing of the applic­a­ble BIT and (ii) there is an “invest­ment” as defined under the applic­a­ble BIT.

Protected investors

The basic prin­ci­ple of a BIT is that only a nation­al of the con­tract­ing par­ty that is not the host state may bring a claim against the host state. This encom­pass­es both nat­ur­al and legal per­sons. For nat­ur­al per­sons, treaties usu­al­ly require that such per­sons have the same nation­al­i­ty as the oth­er con­tract­ing par­ty.

As to legal enti­ties, def­i­n­i­tions vary. Some treaties define this cat­e­go­ry of for­eign investors sole­ly by ref­er­ence to their place of incor­po­ra­tion, while oth­ers refer to the seat of man­age­ment and require that the head­quar­ters or the actu­al eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty be locat­ed in the ter­ri­to­ry of that oth­er con­tract­ing state. Oth­er BITs refer to the con­cept of con­trol and require that the invest­ing enti­ty be con­trolled by a nat­ur­al or legal enti­ty hav­ing the nation­al­i­ty of the oth­er con­tract­ing par­ty. Some treaties even allow claims by com­pa­nies for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed in the host state if they are con­trolled by a nat­ur­al or legal per­son from the oth­er con­tract­ing par­ty.

Protected investment

In terms of cat­e­gories of invest­ment eli­gi­ble for pro­tec­tion, BITs applic­a­ble in Ser­bia usu­al­ly refer to “all kinds of assets” and pro­vide an illus­tra­tive, non-exhaus­tive list of cer­tain pro­tect­ed types of invest­ments, such as mov­able and immov­able prop­er­ty, rights derived from shares, claims to mon­ey, intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights, etc.

Substantial guarantees

BITs pro­vide sub­stan­tial guar­an­tees for the pro­tec­tion of for­eign invest­ments, which assume cer­tain stan­dards of con­duct by the host state gov­ern­ment vis-à-vis pro­tect­ed for­eign investors. BITs applic­a­ble in Ser­bia usu­al­ly con­tain typ­i­cal sub­stan­tive invest­ment pro­tec­tion stan­dards. For exam­ple, they guar­an­tee fair and equi­table treat­ment, nation­al treat­ment, most favoured nation treat­ment, pro­tec­tion from expro­pri­a­tion, free trans­fer of means and full pro­tec­tion and secu­ri­ty.

Dispute resolution

Ser­bian BITs often con­tain com­pos­ite set­tle­ment claus­es and thus pro­vide sev­er­al alter­na­tives for the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion pro­ce­dure. Besides ICSID, ICC or oth­er insti­tu­tion­al or UNCITRAL arbi­tra­tion might also be an option for the set­tle­ment of invest­ment dis­putes. Treaties typ­i­cal­ly estab­lish a “cool­ing-off peri­od”: they require the investors to wait for a peri­od of time (usu­al­ly three to six months) before bring­ing a claim against the state. Addi­tion­al pre-arbi­tra­tion require­ments may also be found in some of the treaties.

The respon­dent in invest­ment arbi­tra­tion is the host state (or its con­stituent sub­di­vi­sion or agency in spe­cif­ic cas­es). Thus, invest­ment arbi­tra­tion has a polit­i­cal aspect and may, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, affect the cred­it rat­ing and rep­u­ta­tion of the host state, both among oth­er states and among the for­eign investors. The com­mence­ment of ICSID pro­ceed­ings is pub­lic as data on reg­is­tra­tion and main steps in the pro­ceed­ings are pub­lished on the ICSID web­site.

Unlike com­mer­cial arbi­tra­tion, an ICSID invest­ment arbi­tra­tion is entire­ly inde­pen­dent of the judi­cial sys­tem of the host state. First, an ICSID award may not be annulled before the courts of any state. Sec­ond, it does not under­go the recog­ni­tion pro­ce­dure in the state in which it is enforced. It has the legal effect of a final court judg­ment and can be direct­ly enforced.

When investing in Serbia, foreign investors can count on relatively wide bilateral investment treaty coverage, but should still carefully analyse underlying jurisdictional conditions to ensure in advance the applicability of the relevant treaty.

Srbija: Investiciona arbitraža – da li je Vaše ulaganje u Srbiji sigurno?

Prethodnu deceniju obeležio je nagli porast u broju investicionih arbitraža. Strani ulagači su sve svesniji da sporazumi o uzajamnom podsticanju i zaštiti ulaganja (BIT) sadrže moćno sredstvo zaštite za njihovo ulaganje.

Uvod

Na osnovu BIT-a, strani ula­gači mogu da potraže među­nar­o­d­nu zašti­tu pro­tiv države koja je domaćin nji­hovog ula­gan­ja, u sluča­ju da ta drža­va pre­duz­i­ma određene rad­nje koje ugrožava­ju ula­gan­je. Ta zašti­ta podrazume­va pra­vo ula­gača da pod­nese tužbu direk­t­no pro­tiv države domaći­na i to pred insti­tu­ci­ja­ma koje nisu sudovi te države.

Među­nar­o­d­ni cen­tar za reša­van­je inves­ti­cionih sporo­va (ICSID) je postao najčešći forum za reša­van­je inves­ti­cionih sporo­va. Nje­go­va insti­tu­cional­na povezanost sa Svet­skom bankom je dodat­no doprinela sve većem znača­ju zaštite koju pruža­ju inves­ti­cioni spo­razu­mi.

Kon­ačno, ovakav sve veći značaj meh­a­niza­ma zaštite koje pruža­ju inves­ti­cioni spo­razu­mi doveo je do toga da je mogućnost pod­nošen­ja tužbe po osnovu spo­razu­ma o zašti­ti ula­gan­ja u određenoj juris­dik­ci­ji posta­la bitan fak­tor pri­likom plani­ran­ja M&A transak­ci­ja. Tako se, baš kao i u cilju pos­ti­zan­ja najpo­voljni­jeg poreskog reži­ma, transak­ci­je ini­ci­jal­no struk­turišu na način koji bi omogućio opti­mizaci­ju meh­a­niza­ma zaštite koji su sadržani u bilat­er­al­nim inves­ti­cionim spo­razu­mi­ma.

Mehanizmi zaštite u bilateralnim investicionim sporazumima u Srbiji

U svetlu nave­denog, raz­motriće­mo sledeća pitan­ja: Na koje meh­a­nizme zaštite ula­gan­ja mogu da raču­na­ju strani ula­gači koji inve­sti­ra­ju u Srbi­ji? Ko ima pra­vo na zašti­tu? Koje vrste ula­gan­ja su zaštićene? Zaš­to bi strani ula­gači tre­ba­lo da raz­motre mogućnost inves­ti­cione arbi­traže pred ICSID-om?

Srbi­ja je pot­pis­ni­ca ICSID Kon­ven­ci­je, što je jedan od pre­duslo­va za pokre­tan­je inves­ti­cione arbi­traže pro­tiv države pred ICSID-om. Pre­duslov je i jas­na i bezuslov­na saglas­nost države domaći­na na taj meh­a­nizam reša­van­ja sporo­va u pogle­du određenih inves­ti­cionih sporo­va i pre­ma određen­im stran­im ula­gači­ma. Ta saglas­nost države domaći­na obično se daje u okviru BIT-a.

Srbi­ja je pot­pisala rel­a­tivno veli­ki broj bilat­er­al­nih inves­ti­cionih spo­razu­ma. Trenut­no je u Srbi­ji na snazi oko 50 takvih spo­razu­ma. Srbi­ja ima pot­pisane spo­razume o zašti­ti uza­jam­nih ula­gan­ja sa svim država­ma koje su glavni izvor stranih ula­gan­ja u Srbi­ji, kao što su Ital­i­ja, Aus­tri­ja, Bel­gi­ja, Grč­ka, Nemač­ka, Rusi­ja i druge. Ovi BIT-ovi u glavnom sadrže saglas­nost na arbi­tražu pred ICSID.

Pored pos­to­jan­ja važećeg BIT, strani ula­gači u Srbi­ji mogu da raču­na­ju na arbi­tražu pred ICSID-om kao meh­a­nizam zaštite nji­hovih ula­gan­ja uko­liko su ispun­je­na još dva uslo­va: (i) da je društ­vo koje vrši ula­gan­je “strani ula­gač” u smis­lu važećeg BIT i (ii) da pos­to­ji “ula­gan­je” u smis­lu važećeg BIT.

Zaštićeni ulagači

Osnovno nače­lo BIT-a je da tužbu pro­tiv države domaći­na može pod­neti samo državl­janin druge strane ugov­or­nice. To se odnosi i na fiz­ič­ka i na prav­na lica. Kada je reč o fiz­ičkim lici­ma, spo­razum obično propisu­je da ta lica mora­ju da ima­ju državl­janst­vo druge strane ugov­or­nice.

Kada je, pak, reč o pravn­im lici­ma, zahte­vi se raz­liku­ju. Neki spo­razu­mi definišu ovu kat­e­gori­ju stranih ula­gača isključi­vo upuću­jući na nji­ho­vo mesto osni­van­ja, dok se dru­gi pozi­va­ju na sedište uprave i zahte­va­ju da sedište poslo­van­ja društ­va bude na ter­i­tori­ji druge strane ugov­or­nice. Neki BIT upuću­ju na kon­cept kon­t­role i zahte­va­ju da društ­vo ula­gač bude pod kon­trolom fiz­ičkog ili pravnog lica koje ima državl­janst­vo druge strane ugov­or­nice. Neki spo­razu­mi čak dozvol­java­ju i da društ­va osno­vana u državi domaćinu pod­ne­su tužbu ako su pod kon­trolom fiz­ičkog ili pravnog lica iz druge države ugov­or­nice.

Zaštićeno ulaganje

Po pitan­ju kat­e­gori­ja ula­gan­ja koje mogu da budu pred­met zaštite, BIT-ovi koji su na snazi u Srbi­ji obično se odnose na “sve vrste imovine” i navode ilus­tra­tivnu lis­tu vrs­ta zaštićenih ula­gan­ja, kao što su pokret­na i nepokret­na imov­ina, pra­va po osnovu udela, novčana potraži­van­ja, pra­va intelek­tu­alne svo­jine itd.

Garancije koje uživaju investitori

BIT-ovi pred­viđa­ju znača­jne garan­ci­je radi zašti­tu stranih ula­gan­ja, koje pret­postavl­ja­ju određene stan­darde pon­ašan­ja od strane države domaći­na pre­ma zaštićen­im stran­im ula­gači­ma. BIT na snazi u Srbi­ji po prav­ilu sadrže uobiča­jene stan­darde zaštite ula­gan­ja. Garan­tu­ju, na primer, prav­ičan i ravno­pra­van tret­man, nače­lo nacionalnog tret­mana, nače­lo najpovlašćeni­je naci­je, zašti­tu od ekspro­pri­jaci­je, slo­bo­dan prenos sred­sta­va i punu zašti­tu i bezbed­nost.

Rešavanje sporova

BIT koje je zaključi­la Repub­li­ka Srbi­ja obično sadrže opcione klauzule o reša­van­ju sporo­va koje pred­viđa­ju veći broj alter­na­ti­va za pos­tu­pak reša­van­ja sporo­va. Osim ICSID-a, uglavnom pos­to­ji i opci­ja reša­van­ja inves­ti­cionih sporo­va pred Među­nar­o­d­nom arbi­tražn­im sudom pri Među­nar­o­d­noj privred­noj komori (ICC), drugim insti­tu­cional­nim arbi­traža­ma ili ad hoc arbi­tražom po prav­il­i­ma UNCI­TRAL-a. Spo­razu­mi­ma se obično pred­viđa “cool­ing-off peri­od”, odnos­no zahte­va da ula­gač sače­ka određeni vre­men­s­ki peri­od (obično tri do šest mese­ci) radi pokuša­ja mirnog rešen­ja spo­ra pre pod­nošen­ja tužbe pro­tiv države. U nekim spo­razu­mi­ma mogu se naći i dru­gi pre­duslovi za arbi­tražu.

Tuženi u inves­ti­cionoj arbi­traži je drža­va domaćin (ili, u nekim sluča­je­vi­ma, nje­na ter­i­tori­jal­na jedini­ca ili insti­tu­ci­ja). Tako inves­ti­ciona arbi­traža ima i poli­tič­ki aspekt i može direk­t­no ili indi­rek­t­no uti­cati na kred­it­ni rejt­ing i ugled države domaći­na, kako među drugim država­ma, tako i među stran­im ula­gači­ma. Pokre­tan­je arbi­traže pred ICSID je javno, poš­to se podaci o pokre­tan­ju spo­ra i glavne faze u pos­tup­ku objavlju­ju na inter­net strani­ci ICSID-a.

Za raz­liku od komer­ci­jalne arbi­traže, inves­ti­ciona arbi­traža pred ICSID-om je u pot­punos­ti neza­v­is­na od pravo­sudnog sis­tema države domaći­na. Prvo, arbi­tražnu odluku ICSID-a ne može poništi­ti sud nijedne zeml­je. Dru­go, ona ne mora da prođe kroz pos­tu­pak priz­na­van­ja u državi u kojoj se izvršen­je sprovo­di. Ima pravno dejst­vo pravos­nažne sudske pre­sude i direk­t­no je izvrši­va.

Prilikom ulaganja u Srbiji, strani ulagači mogu da računaju na relativno širok spektar bilateralnih investicionih sporazuma, ali ipak treba pažljivo da prouče ispunjenost propisanih jurisdikcionalnih uslova kako bi unapred osigurali da postoji sporazum koji bi mogao biti primenljiv u odnosu na njih.